Caroline Seton Ledlie is a true Atlanta girl and the evolution of the Southern belle. Presently employed at an adolescent psychiatric hospital, she is an ex-corporate P.R. princess, former New Zealand radio DJ, and Georgia Author of the Year nominee for her self-published novel of Southern fiction, White Girl Roar.
Atlanta bled red clay from an opening every day. In another wave of the Reconstruction, developers scraped the city's unwanted children from the intown projects. In return, the government delivered them to outskirt counties. Rubble replaced green-door housing as the next generation of real estate, mixed use developments with skyline views, grew across the city like kudzu.
East of downtown, ghosts of ancient trolley cars barreled through Inman Park and crossed the invisible border to the Old Fourth Ward. Hookers worked tentatively in the shadows of flash condos, spit-shined bungalows, and the occasional old-school crackhouse. Fresh paint splashed torments of color across the black and white neighborhood, while children lifted castles from sand piled by builders at the curb.
Hartry awoke to bulldozers approaching his small stand of trees on the edge of public parkland. He ran with his blue tarp, strung clothing, and earthly possessions. From the bike path, he watched them roll over the remains until there was nothing left of his home but baking clay beneath the warm sun.
Hartry wouldn't cry if it wasn't raining, so he cussed instead. "G'damn ... g'damn!"
The construction workers played an uninterested audience to the homeless man blues, and Hartry left as the men lined up like soldiers to build the fence. Hammers echoed like gunshots across the rooftops of the Old Fourth Ward as stiff boards of pine grew along the boundaries of the developer's lot. Checking his person for rock and bills, Hartry reluctantly accepted an empty pocket morning, except for the small bit of change in his shirt pocket. Slipping down a cut-through, he closed in on the apartments, a brick box building set deep into the ground. In the top left unit, a blind man sold hooch to the folks blacklisted from nearby establishments.
"Holt!" Hartry's head hurt, telling him it was time for beer. "Hey, Holt!"
The screen door popped and an ear tilted towards the voice beneath the steps. Hartry yelled again, then lost his breath and coughed bits of blood and saliva in the sewer grate.
Dark glasses hiding white eyes nodded as the door shut then reopened, and Hartry burned up the steps. Hartry traded quarters and nickels for the ice-cold can in Holt's fist. The top popped and he gulped, staving off pain until he had more money. Though he lived in the city of Coca-Cola, all Hartry wanted was malt liquor.
Yard work, painting fences, selling trash. The dollar bills floated just out of Hartry's reach throughout the neighborhood. His next stop was to see if his two favored girls were home. Some evenings, they fed him barbecued chicken or pork ribs from a slow, hot grill on the front porch. Other mornings it was a warm bowl of oatmeal mixed with brown sugar and a tall glass of juice. For his keep, he washed their cars with a bucket of warm water, raked leaves, cleared poison ivy from the fence, and fashioned rose-colored cushions for their painted but painful porch chairs.
The two girls had driven him to Milledgeville once, setting him up in a room at the Econo Lodge. They left razors to care for his grizzle, beef jerky for his iron deficiency, and varied sundries to ready him for a prodigal meeting with his family after years of living on the streets. Before his young chauffeurs took him from Atlanta, Hartry went on a binge with his neighborhood peers. The crackheads had warned him to stay in the Old Fourth Ward, that the girls were up to no good and would probably kill him. Suffering bouts of paranoia in the backseat on the ride, he soothed himself by storytelling his old life as a long-distance trucker on the road. After less than forty-eight hours in Milledgeville, he was returned to Atlanta, put on a bus by the Macon police after fighting with a family that couldn't resurrect the brother they once knew.
Hartry started up the gravel drive, an archaeological dig of Atlanta's decades. It was once an alley for residents on the parallel street to access their garages. A woman came once a month to collect colored bits of glass stirred up by the wheels of cars. Her yard only had pinecones, and she sifted through scraps of lottery tickets, sharps born as beer cans, and anorexic pecans in search of pretty urban trash from the past.
Hartry passed the front residence, an eighty-year-old rusted gingerbread house hurting from old age pain. On one side lived a city government worker. On the left half, an artist worked and slept. Sometimes Hartry sat secretly on the porch steps, listening to the artist playing her piano amidst the hardwood and sunlight inside.
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Mo gibs muh 'dat.
One step forward, two steps back.
Hey "Here's Your Editorial", what does Dale Earnhardt Junior have to do with this article?